A rigorous education is the essential component to a viable and robust workforce and Indiana’s overall economic prosperity. Without ensuring an unwavering priority is placed upon PK-16 education, we will miss a crucial opportunity to make systemic improvement in our great state. The Indiana Department of Education’s (IDOE) vision is to ensure all Indiana students develop skills and explore their passions through high-quality learning experiences that prepare them for an engaged citizenry and successful participation in a global economy.
However, in order to accomplish this vision, we must not only align our education system to today’s business and industry needs, but we must also ensure schools are offering a wide variety of relevant career preparation and exploration opportunities for our students. It is important for students to not only pursue a future career, but a future career that ignites their passions and considers lifetime earning powers. We cannot simply focus on the open positions of today, or we risk drastically failing our students tomorrow. In order to realize this reality, we must rebuild K-12 career exploration and experiential systems, modernize our current courses and diploma requirements, and empower teachers and educational leaders with factual knowledge relating to the alignment between work and school.
Much of this work is already underway in Indiana. The Indiana Department of Education has been charged with piloting career exploration programs in middle schools across our state, realigning advanced courses for high-wage and high-demand career sequencing, providing business externships for educators, creating and implementing a statewide STEM plan, and providing comprehensive professional development for educators. Furthermore, redesigning and expanding flexibility surrounding teacher licensure is vital to Indiana’s future. Over the last two years, a combined 58 high school and middle school courses have been impacted by this undertaking. This flexibility unequivocally equates to more student opportunities. All of these endeavors require a focus on building the capacity at the state and local school levels. We cannot expect to lead those who cannot follow. Innovation, education, and dedication are all required to build this necessary capacity.
In addition, the Indiana Department of Education team has been involved in the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet and two of its subcommittees. All of the aforementioned successes have been a collective effort of K-12 educators, higher education, workforce partners, and cross-governmental agencies.
These efforts require Indiana to explore and adopt work-based learning models, such as, CareerWise Colorado, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), and Ford Next Generation Learning. Such models extend high school experiences without compromising academic rigor or diminishing the value of post-secondary education attainment. Without question, K-12 will be dependent upon the purposeful expansion of our partnerships with workforce and higher education.
At a time when Indiana and much of the nation is experiencing a low unemployment rate, the Department remains committed to the review of necessary and accurate data, partnering with stakeholders, and working with our local schools in order to approach the future workforce demands with the need for a rigorous and relevant PK-16 experience.